Sunday, 3 February 2013

Pillars of Islam

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

Definition of Islam

I know many people had already talk about this. This is just a formality when introducing our Divine Path. Basically it refers to the submission and obedience toward the teachings of the God the Highest with all of our heart. This is word is mentioned in our scripture to describe ourselves. As for my personal experience, I am voluntarily a Muslim. I am not forced by my parents though they are Muslims. 

My parents just taught me on basic things like how to perform salat services, learning the Arabic alphabets to recite the simple Quranic verses. They sent me to mosque and also to religious schools, so I was taught about Islam and its practices by teachers in classes with classmates. After that, I also learned other religious traditions in depth including practices and step by step turning to them when I experienced life pressures as a little child who has no one to turn to for e.g friends, relatives as we live far from them nor siblings because my siblings are all sisters. It means that I did not only listening to people telling others about this religion is like this or like that. I recited their prayers, listening their sermon and sincerely learned their religious traditions. That is why I know what are their technical terminologies and I know their self disciplines... The same thing also happened when I return to my ancestral path which is this Divine Path. I don't know why I was not interested to be baptized as a Christian last time though I heard they offer money as some kind of tithe for newly convert into their popular "religions", but instead turning to the Sakya ascetic who offered me nothing except that I could only be initiated as a bald beggar with a beluam who may wander in deep forests if I choose to leave all the attachments as the tradition that I learned has to do with forest hermitage, hehe...

The evidence where the God used the word which is derived for the words Islam or Muslim to describe Himself is in the Surat al-Hashr verse 59:23 which means... "He is the God who is no one except Him, the King, the Holiest, the Bestower of Peace, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Most Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Supreme. Exalted the God from whatever they associate Him with!". So, the word Islam was derived from one of the Glorious Attributes of the God. Further, it is described by the God in the Glorious Quran as the Divine Path which had also been passed by our patriarch, Abraham a.s in Surat al-Baqarat which means..."When the God said to Abraham a.s, submit yourself! And he answered, "I have submitted myself to the Lord of the Universe 131 And he passed down with this speech sons and down to Jacob. Ibrahim passed down his will, "O my children, indeed the God has chosen for you the Divine Law, so never die unless if you are Muslims" 132 Were you present when Jacob was closer to the death when he asked his children, "What will you worship after I am gone?". They answered, "We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isma'el, and Isaac. The Only God and we are Muslims 133".

Some people who only hold the Quran as the source of religion perhaps would ask what is the need for one to recite the testimony because maybe they studied too deep until they could not see simple things. The testimony of faith in the God and noble prophet Muhammad s.a.w as the slave and messenger of the God was mentioned by prophet Muhammad s.a.w himself in the Hadith Qudsi. It indicates that he is the universal prophet of this closing epoch and a sign of His Mercy in the form of the seal. Muhammad s.a.w is referred as the seal of prophethood in term of direct revelation through the emissary of the Archangel Gabriel a.s. The Archangel Gabriel a.s is of the highest ranking angel in the angelic hierarchy...

When we recite the testimony, it also means that we conclude our faith in all of the previous prophets and messengers of the God, mentioned in the Glorious Quran or those who are not clearly mentioned. Never be boastful with ourselves lest we will be trapped in Satan's wicked tricks... Humble down ourselves...

Pillars of Islam

Islam in one self is built with these five matters in the form of binding practices... They are self disciplines in the form of various penance acts or worship prescribed to develop both spiritual and physical strength. Normally, these five are just the minimal ones while one may add anything optional as according to both Quran and valid traditions... The matters are....

1. Testimonial of faith in the God and the prophethood of Muhammad s.a.w.
2. Daily five times prayer services.
3. Tithe
4. Fasting which is an obligation for a whole Ramadhan lunar month.
5. Pilgrimage in the month of Dzulhijja for those who are able to perform it.

1. Testimonial of Faith

This one is already mentioned in the Portal of the Divine Path section. This is the proclamation on the prophethood of prophet Muhammad s.a.w an also a testimony that we accept him as an appointed messenger of the God to transmit the Path of Abraham a.s. This part is an integral part in our daily salat services be they obligatory salats or optional salats. We recite these proclamations in the first and second tashahuds of salats.

2. Daily Five Times Prayer Services

This is a kind of worship act where literally means that we are in contact with the Creator. For us Muslims, we perform the salat services with the prescribed manners and prescribed times. Salat service combines chanting of litanies and glorification directed to the Lord of the universe, chanting of holy verses, meditation in the form of tranquility for moments, sitting, standing straight, bowing, prostration and several other worship acts which connects one self who perform it with awareness to his Creator. It is an act of worship which involves our speeches, verbal acts, mental and heart.

We begin the salat service with intention where we ask His permission to be connected to Him and then we would say our exaltation in respect to the Lord. It ends with salutation of peace to fellow human-being and other unseen beings such as angels. The time where we perform the obligatory salat services are known as Fajr, Dzuhr, 'Asr, Maghreb and 'Isha'. Time length and grid differ according to regions.

Anyway it does not take us long and is very flexible. If we could not perform this commandment in the mosque together with congregations, say if we are extremely busy; we still can perform it in our offices, maybe behind the walls, pillars and other clean places. Our direction of prayer around the world is the grand mosque in the Holy Mecca as it is mentioned in the scripture. The longest one when I perform when I am alone is around 15 minutes. Mostly it takes only 10 minutes and after that we can do our daily chores or go back to our works. Many people who think that it is difficult because they never perform it. For non-Muslims who wanted to understand the way Muslim meditate, why not consider to perform it and recite the words of salat services in your languages maybe alone at home. Maybe it could be an alternative for your mental training who knows. Just be positive.

3. Tithe

In Arabic, we call this as Zakat which means the purification. In our property, there are some portions that we actually had unintentionally grabbed from those unfortunate ones. So, we purify our properties with this act of paying the tithe to the unfortunate ones.

In some countries with Muslim majority, they have the council or a board to manage the tithe. We can also pay it directly to those unfortunate ones provided that we know how to calculate the portions and who can accept the tithe. I learned that in 17th century Catholic countries like France for e.g, they also practiced tithe but the priests had took opportunity to use the tithe for their own luxurious life.

The Islam that I understood urges a sane Muslim to know almost everything about his religion or at least the basis of the Path. The religion is not a monopoly of priestly groups or clerics. We have the responsibility to seek the knowledge because this is our Way of Life. Our Divine Path where we perform every acts with its guidance... Because of this, we know that tithe is an obligation for a Muslim who are fortunate and able to be paid with particular terms and conditions and only to certain people. Tithe is divided into two sub-divisions which are the fitrah tithe and the property tithe.

The fitrah tithe is in the form of staple foods according to regions with the specific measurement to those who are rightful to accept it. This is an obligation only in Ramadhan lunar month beginning from its first day towards the evening before 'Eid al-Fitri. 

The property tithe refers to the spending of ones property with specific calculation and certain conditions only to certain people. It could be paid annually or as according to the calculation on how long that certain property lay idle in our account or in the form of gold. Some that one needs to spend for others in the form of tithe are...

1. Staple foods as according to region, maybe wheat, barley, oat or rice for land lord.
2. Fruits such as dates, vines and others for those who possess farms.
3. Livestock for e.g cattle, sheep, camel or goat.
4. Business profits and those from estates.

Those who should accept the tithe are....

1. Extremely poor people.
2. Poor people.
3. The collectors of the tithe.
4. Freed slaves if there are any in this modern world.
5. The newly revert people.
6. Debtors.
7. People who serves the Lord and His Divine Path.
8. Stranded travelers.

There are also the notion of khums but it is omitted within mainstream four schools of jurisprudence as it is counted as obsolete. It is defined only as the spoils of war by four schools of jurisprudence. This is a custom of Muhammad s.a.w clan which was introduced by Abdul Mutallib who is an uncle of Muhammad s.a.w. In the Ja'afari jurisprudence which is prominent among the Shi'a Muslim brothers be they of Twelver or of Sevener, it also applies to the business profits. I guess around one fifth of seven listed matters being contributed to poor descendants of Fatima r.a or the Sayyids and Sharifs. There are terms and conditions for this too for these people to be eligible for the Khums as according to Ja'afari school of jurisprudence.

Usually for us and what I had been taught, we cannot touch anything whether from the Zakat or from Khums as there is no Khums anymore in our Shafi'ie school of jurisprudence. We can only accept whatever is donated by our people but since we're scattered everywhere and some had even feel ashamed of their origin so we just try to survive amidst the pressure of life. Some even leaving behind the Divine Path and forget everything about their ancestors, on the other hand turning to be non-Muslims... As for Zaydi tariqa Shi'a Muslim brothers, I am not sure what they say about Khums.

4. Fasting in Ramadan

It is an act of worship in the form of holding ones desire from eating, drinking, from sexual desires and others that invalidate one's fast beginning after the morning prayer service call with a specific intention and we can live like normal people after the call for evening prayer service which is at the time of Maghrib. This act of worship is an obligation for all sane Muslims who reached their puberty only in the lunar month of Ramadan. Many people would tell various stories about how they spend their Ramadan month, some are cooking special dishes, some are going to the mosque for each night to seize the opportunity in performing more penance, some believe that it is a spiritual training and not only a training for their mental and physical and others. It depends on individual but everyone knows this is an obligation. Discussions about this topic is very broad too and not explained only in this single sub-topic as this a brief introduction.

5. Pilgrimage in the Holy Mecca

At least once in our life time, we must perform the pilgrimage in our holy city, Mecca which is now a territory in Saudi Arabia. It is performed when we reach certain ability only in certain times and with certain conditions. The greater pilgrimage is performed during the Dzulhijja lunar month which is around November or December.

What we mean by reaching certain ability is:

1. Financially able to go for Mecca, to support the life while staying there for about a month as to perform acts of worship and to return to home.

2. Leaving sufficient financial support for family at home.

3. Certain that the journey is safe or making sure that it is safe for them to stay in Mecca while performing the pilgrimage.

The greater pilgrimage is known as Hajj, while the lesser one is known as 'Omra. 'Omra can be performed any time whenever ones feel comfortable. It is not as complicated as the greater pilgrimage.

As to say, these are the basis our Divine Path. All of these are the roots in all of our practices in daily life. They contain their own philosophies where only the God can perfectly conclude them for us. We have different books discussing these topics as well as various lectures explaining on the steps or the meanings behind these. Some people also experience differences when performing this whether it is of their first time or for many times in their life. Some people just performing all of these because everyone does these. Or because it is a norm in their countries. As for me, these are my identities. They are my roots and my souls. They possess their own significance once we learn them by experience because we are learning until our soul leaves our physical body. 
Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace, and love, amin!

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